Argentina abortion bill heads to Congress vote as protests build

BUENOS AIRES – A bill to legalize abortion in Argentina, which is being pushed by center-left President Alberto Fernandez, is set to be debated in the lower house of Congress on Thursday amid widespread protests for and against the law.

The legislation, which would provide for the legal termination of pregnancy up until the 14th week, could set the tone elsewhere in predominantly Roman Catholic Latin America, with a number of countries seeing drives to give women greater reproductive rights.

The draft law is expected to be narrowly approved by congressional deputies before moving up to the Senate, where an even tighter vote is anticipated. The South American country is the birthplace of Pope Francis, and most people are nominally Catholic.

A spokesman for the ruling party told Reuters a debate of almost 30 hours was expected in the lower house, meaning that the bill – which could undergo modifications to achieve broad consensus – would be likely to face a vote on Friday morning.

“We are confident that the votes will be there … We are working on the consensus that is needed,” Elizabeth Gómez Alcorta, the government’s Women, Gender and Diversity minister, told the official news agency Télam on Wednesday.

Protesters supporting the bill said they would conduct an overnight vigil, wearing their trademark green scarves, outside the gates of Congress to await news of what they hope will be an approval this time round after a similar vote to legalize abortion was narrowly defeated in 2018.

Opposition groups, with light blue scarves, have also pledged to take to the streets to demonstrate against the bill.

The initiative includes a parallel bill which will face a separate vote to assist women who want to continue with their pregnancy and face severe economic or social difficulties.

Argentine law currently only allows the voluntary interruption of pregnancy when there is a serious risk to the mother or in the event of rape, although activists say many women often do not receive adequate care.

The country has seen a gradual rise in agnosticism in recent years. While the current Peronist government is strongly behind the bill, that was not the case in 2018 during the conservative administration of Mauricio Macri.


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